Nicaragua: US imperialism activates its regime change apparatus

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Organization of American States’ Permanent Council holds Extraordinary Session on Nicaragua, January 11, 2019.

On December 24, 2018, just as many were beginning holiday celebrations, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a notice to its members of a special meeting being held on December 27 at the request of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and the United States “to consider the situation in Nicaragua.”  The meeting was called within days of the release of a report by the OAS-linked Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) relating to violent events that occurred in the country between April 18 and May 30, 2018.
The sudden outbreak of a “student” protest on April 18 was allegedly in response to social security reforms affecting the pensions of seniors introduced by the government as an alternative to the harsh measures called for by the IMF to address a deficit in the pension fund (which the government then withdrew, in spite of having the support of pensioners, to try to quell the protest). The protests however escalated and spread to different parts of the country, quickly turning to killings and violent acts of all kinds, widespread destruction of property and the setting up of roadblocks, accompanied by demands for President Daniel Ortega to “leave.” These events were routinely portrayed by opposition-controlled media inside Nicaragua and the monopoly media internationally as “peaceful” protests that were responded to by students being brutally massacred, leading to a nationwide protest movement supported by most of the population, which the government put down through wholesale human rights abuses. Anything that contradicted this narrative was ignored or dismissed regardless of the facts in the IACHR’s report of its “investigations.”

What took place for almost three months beginning in April was in fact reminiscent of the way violent foreign-backed opposition groups rampaged in Venezuela in 2014 and again in 2017 in failed attempts to bring down President Nicolás Maduro and the Bolivarian government. And that is no accident, nor is the fact that the U.S. has put a cabal of governments, institutions, agencies and organizations that it controls or dominates, including a whole “human rights” apparatus, into action to wage a coordinated offensive against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government like the one it has been waging against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela and revolutionary Cuba.

This is the context within which the neutral-sounding Working Group on Nicaragua was put in place at the OAS. It is no coincidence that the governments that came forward to be part of it are the very ones trying to isolate and force regime change in Venezuela via the illegitimate Lima Group.

The Working Group did not take long to show its colours, collaborating with the imperialist agent serving as the Secretary General of the OAS who announced at the December 27 special meeting that he was “forced” to initiate a process to activate Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Nicaragua, alleging that the constitutional order had been broken and the government had committed crimes against humanity.[1]

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Nicaraguans celebrate the 39th anniversary of Sandinista Revolution, Managua, July 19, 2018. Banner reads: “Nicaragua Wants Peace! Forward Daniel!”

This activity at the OAS follows a number of hostile moves by the U.S. In September, when the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, was serving as Chair of the Security Council she attempted without success to get a resolution passed against Nicaragua there. Then in November the U.S. put into place increased financial, economic and other sanctions against the government of Nicaragua and Nicaraguan individuals under its Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA). At the same time President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring the Ortega government “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” To which the Nicaraguan government responded stating, “We categorically reject the historical continuity of the interference and interventionist policy of the U.S. imperial power against Nicaragua,” adding that “we declare all accusations that ratify the imperialist perspectives and practices of the United States of America as inadmissible, disrespectful, false and illegitimate.”

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“Nicaragua is a free, sovereign and independent country. The OAS is neither a judicial organ nor a court of appeal. It is a political body that favours the U.S.”

January 11 was the latest special meeting of the OAS Permanent Council at which Nicaragua was the subject. Canada, as Co-Chair of the Working Group, delivered its report, calling the situation in Nicaragua “grave” and referring to an alleged erosion of democracy, the lack of human rights, attacks on “credible NGOs” and lack of respect for the rule of law – signalling an intent to recommend international intervention following steps outlined in the Democratic Charter. Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada strenuously objected to the holding of the meeting and called initiation of the process to apply the Democratic Charter against Nicaragua illegal and illegitimate. He denounced the aggression and machinations of the U.S. to force a de facto regime change on Nicaragua as well as on Venezuela and Cuba. Similar positions were taken by representatives of Venezuela and Bolivia who also spoke. There was no vote held or decision taken at the meeting but it was the recommendation of the Working Group that the matter continue to be studied and that another meeting be held to consider what action to take.

TML Weekly calls on Canadians to take a stand against this brutal U.S. imperialist campaign and to oppose attempts to promote it in Canada. The principle of non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign countries, which even the OAS purports to stand for, requires that the people of each country be able to control the decisions that affect their economy as well as their social, cultural and political affairs free from outside interference. Those who are promoting this campaign in Canada would do better to contribute to making sure Canadians can exercise control over the decisions which affect their lives at home instead of promoting counterrevolution abroad in the name of freedom, democracy and human rights.  To support imperialist plans for regime change anywhere, regardless of the pretext, is not an honourable pursuit.

Note

1. The Inter-American Democratic Charter was adopted on September 11, 2001 by a special session of the General Assembly of the OAS in Lima, Peru. It was drafted behind the scenes by the U.S. and Canada without submitting its guiding principles or specific points for discussion or approval by the parliaments of the member countries of the OAS, let alone the citizenry. TMLwrote at the time: “The U.S. imperialists, with the support of the Canadian ruling circles, are striving to put in place […] legal mechanisms to provide for economic sanctions, political isolation, interference and intervention and even outright military invasion of any country which does not submit to the U.S. imperialists’ dictate – all in the name of  strengthening ‘democracy.’“

Article 20 reads:

In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.

The Permanent Council, depending on the situation, may undertake the necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy.

If such diplomatic initiatives prove unsuccessful, or if the urgency of the situation so warrants, the Permanent Council shall immediately convene a special session of the General Assembly. The General Assembly will adopt the decisions it deems appropriate, including the undertaking of diplomatic initiatives, in accordance with the Charter of the Organization, international law, and the provisions of this Democratic Charter.

The necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy, will continue during the process.

(Photos: OAS, Canal 2, M. Blumenthal)

TML Weekly, January 19, 2019


Unravelling a Plot

– Francisco Arias Fernández –

As early as 2016, talk of war against Nicaragua could again be heard in Miami, at a time when the streets of this nation were a regional example of security, peace, and prosperity, where a hardworking, tranquil people proudly enjoyed the social and economic advances achieved by the Sandinista government, that had established a national consensus, in the wake of one of the worst interventions carried out by the United States in Central America.

With no justification whatsoever – when the news from Nicaragua around the world was about a proposed inter-oceanic canal that would boost the economy and impact global navigation – Congress members who make a living off the U.S. war against Cuba and Venezuela were mounting efforts to reverse the prosperity and calm that reigned in the land of Augusto César Sandino.

Congress members, first in the House of Representatives and later the Senate, introduced a bill to create obstacles to the awarding of international loans to Nicaragua, hamper foreign investment, and put a brake on socio-economic development in the country. This imperialist punishment, cooked up by the worst of the anti-Cuban mafia in 2015, set in motion the fabrication of a pretext regarding the alleged lack of democracy, justified as a way to “guarantee electoral transparency and fight corruption.” The result of this initial maneuver was the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act of 2017 (NICA).

Ileana Ros, Albio Sires, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and others, among the most reactionary legislators in Congress from South Florida, Texas, and New Jersey, are again attempting to reinvent the Contras and get rid of the Sandinista government, which has repeatedly shown at the polls that it enjoys the people’s majority support.

ned.usinterventionThe tentacles of this subversive plot go beyond the capital, since these forces are well connected to the United States’ coup-manufacturing machinery, and laid the foundation for a media campaign in coordination with agencies specialized in carrying out dirty wars and soft coups, working with U.S. intelligence and the CIA, in particular.

In this specific case, international press media have documented the participation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), as well their sub-contractors, which have been working meticulously, since Daniel Ortega was first elected, to re-invent a “new leadership,” selectively infiltrating key sectors of the economy, targeting youth, students, medium and small businesspeople, environmental and feminist groups, among others, to undermine the foundation of support for the Sandinista government.

It is revealing that on April 16, [2018], following the same line espoused by anti-Cuban Congress members, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced that the U.S. government would continue supporting the participation of a “free genuine” civil society in Nicaragua, after stating that the United States is concerned about the closing of democratic spaces in Nicaragua, “systematic” violations of human rights, and government corruption.

In March, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Albio Sires sent a letter to Green, in which they call on the U.S. government to reverse its decision to provide “zero aid” to Nicaragua through USAID for the fiscal year 2018-2019, while at the same time calling on the agency to avoid supporting “members of the private sector linked to corruption, money laundering, or the Daniel Ortega regime.”

At the end of 2008, the media reported that USAID had provided at least a million dollars in Nicaragua that year to NGOs, radio broadcasters, and political groups like the Communications Research Center (CINCO), to intervene in municipal elections.

This financing, as was denounced at the time, contributed surreptitiously as “small donations,” that were not to exceed $25,000, was part of a large scale U.S. plan to overthrow the government of Daniel Ortega, carried out since then by internal agents from the Nicaraguan right.

The strategy mounted to discredit the Sandinista government in the media was conducted via two financing routes; one directed by USAID and the Casals & Associates firm, and another managed by the so-called Common Fund in Europe, which provided funds to organize campaigns and mobilizations to destabilize the government.

By 2008, media in Nicaragua had identified at least 14 subversive projects run by USAID across the country, under the cover of a wide range of titles and objectives, made possible by this funding.

Another key element of the U.S. machinery linked to the CIA is the National Democratic Institute, an instrument dedicated to promoting “change” that focuses on “empowering” so called “agents of change” in countries with governments not to Washington’s liking.

A Swedish journalist reported, this past June 4, that three students from Nicaragua were conducting a tour of Europe to raise support for a plot against the Sandinista government, stating that at least one of the youth represented an organization created and financed by the United States.

Jessica Cisneros, he reported, was active around the issue of the involvement and participation of youth in political processes, and was a member of the Movimiento Cívico de Juventudes (Civic Youth Movement).

Another of these “agents of change” promoting hate for the Sandinista government and support for a coup, was Yerling Aguilera, from the Polytechnic University in Managua (UPOLI) and specializing in research on revolution and the feminist movement, who, according to the reporter, has been an employee and consultant for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP) in Nicaragua, that works to “strengthen the abilities of political, state, and social actors for a better informed public via creative, innovative services,” which has received $224,162 from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) between 2014 and 2017.

The NED has distributed some $4.2 million in Nicaragua, over this three-year period.

The USAID, NDI, and NED have been busy in the country, with thousands of activists trained to “change society.” Hundreds of NGOs, universities, and political parties have received funds and materials as part of the subversive plan that was not conceived to advance through traditional political organizations, but rather those invented to give the impression that they emerged “spontaneously” from dissatisfaction, hiding the true interest of the North at work.

Although efforts were intensified after Ortega’s 2006 electoral victory, since 2015, with the approval of the NICA, U.S. agencies increased and broadened financial support and resources for their “agents of change” in Nicaragua, above all through leadership courses and money for young people in universities, NGOs, and political parties.

In their political, diplomatic, and media advice to the coup-plotters, Washington has insisted on demonizing Daniel Ortega and his government, an effort carried out not only by the White House, and its agencies, allies, satellites, and mercenaries, but also the corporate media monopolies and fabricators of lies, which magnify internal problems and accuse authorities for all types of human rights violations, totally omitting the crimes and destruction committed by individuals who have been “empowered” by the USAID, NDI, NED, and CIA, who have caused the failure of talks and calls for peace. As is the case in Venezuela, Donald Trump and his advisors, architects of a thousand invasions, do not believe in dialogue or pacts, opting for war on all fronts.

Nicaragua has become the epicenter of U.S. warmongering efforts, hand in hand with Anti-Cuban legislators and profiteers, and other veteran hawks. Washington is attempting to re-invent its strategy at the cost of human lives and destruction in the streets of Nicaragua.

USAID’S Thinly Disguised Subversion Projects in Nicaragua

– Citizen participation in electoral processes

– Developing a culture of transparency among Nicaraguan youth

– Communications training for students to produce stories that promote self-efficacy

– Multimedia for democratic governability

– Strengthening civil rights of women and youth in Masaya

– Citizen action legal framework for journalists

– Active participation for Nicaraguans exercising their right to vote

NDI tentacles

– Since 2010 the NDI has been associated with Nicaraguan universities and civic organizations conducting a youth leadership program which has helped prepare more than 2,000 “youth leaders,” and worked to increase the political influence of women, LGBT persons, and electoral processes

– The Movimiento Cívico de Juventudes (MCJ) is an organization financed, created, and part of the NDI.

– Several members of the group graduated from the NDI program earning a Certificate in Leadership and Political Management (CLPM).

(Granma, June 29, 2018)


Legitimacy and Human Rights

– Stephen Sefton –

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Rally for Peace, Managua, May 5, 2018. Banner reads: “For peace and dialogue. Everyone with Daniel  [Ortega].”

The murder of Miguel Ramos on July 3, 2018 focuses many aspects of the current crisis in Nicaragua to do with conflicting claims of legitimacy involving fundamental issues of civil and political rights and social and economic rights. In 1978 and 1979, as a teenager in the Carlos Fonseca Northern Front guerrilla column, Miguel fought for Nicaragua’s sovereign independence. On July 3 he died for that same cause, gunned down by supporters of the U.S.-backed right-wing coup in progress against the Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega. Miguel was one of a group of civilians helping the authorities clear an opposition roadblock at La Trinidad on the Panamerican Highway about 20km south of Esteli.

On July 3, Carlos Ascencio, El Salvador’s ambassador, published an appeal on behalf of all the Central American ambassadors in Nicaragua to clear similar roadblocks in Jinotepe. His letter provides independent corroboration of the violent intimidation and extortion practised by opposition gangs who have operated these roadblocks for two months, strangling Nicaragua’s economy and abusing people’s basic rights.

Ascencio denounces the effective detention of 400 truck drivers and their vehicles near the town of Jinotepe for over a month. The drivers, from all over Central America, have been threatened and their vehicles damaged. The political opposition activists operating the roadblocks refuse to liberate the trucks and their drivers because “they are our protective shield and negotiating card to support our demands in the dialogue.”

A focus for murder

That is just one of the innumerable gross human rights abuses by the right-wing opposition forces promoting the attempted coup in Nicaragua. For two months the road blocks, operated by opposition paramilitaries and paid thugs, have been a focus for murder, torture, kidnapping, intimidation, extortion and criminal delinquency. Supporters of the coup turn that reality upside-down, blaming the resulting violence on the government. In their upside-down world, ordinary citizens organizing to defend their rights against armed and violent opposition gangs metamorphose into ‘Sandinista paramilitaries.’

In the case of Miguel Gomez, the opposition have already portrayed the incident in which he died as a government paramilitary attack on peaceful protesters. They will add Miguel’s death to the tally of their own casualties, even though he died at their hands. Abundant documentation and audio-visual evidence exists now disproving categorically the constant falsehoods propagated by U.S.-funded opposition human rights organizations and local Nicaraguan opposition media. The original list of 55 deaths, proclaimed with such theatre on the first day of the National Dialogue, has been completely debunked. There was never any ‘student massacre.’

Sadistic violence

Other material exposes media and NGO manipulation of opposition marches, or the deaths of women during the crisis. Numerous videos demonstrate the sadistic violence of opposition activists. Various writers like Alex Anfruns have explained the systematic pattern of media distortion and manipulation of opposition attacks and abuses reported by opposition media and NGOs as government human rights violations. No Western corporate media and only a handful of alternative media publish this material or any version challenging the demonstrable false witness of Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR).

Just as in the case of Venezuela, those organizations have failed to investigate impartially any of the incidents they report, merely recycling the version already prepared for them by U.S.-funded local NGOs and media and ignoring or rejecting documentation from the Nicaraguan authorities out of hand. IACHR Director Paulo Abrao effectively disqualified himself as an independent arbitrator during a visit to Nicaragua last May, when he was recorded publicly declaring his support for the opposition. The investigative process accompanied by a group of IACHR experts had not even begun when, on June 22, the IACHR presented their final report to the OAS Permanent Commission.

Blatant political bias

Perhaps as the political price of avoiding – at least for the moment – the kind of all-out economic and diplomatic assault applied to Cuba and Venezuela, the Nicaraguan government has accepted these gross methodological irregularities and the blatant political bias of the OAS and its IACHR subsidiary. For its part, the Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace appointed by the National Assembly has actively sought an exchange of information with the opposition human rights organizations. As Commission member Cairo Amador has explained, “It’s a matter of everyone providing their data and their versions so, in the end, everyone contributes to getting at the truth.”

But as Esteli Mayor Francisco Valenzuela has pointed out, the effects of the attempted coup are much broader than the civil rights violations: “The damages can definitely be classified in order of importance. First, the suffering and the victims that we all lament. Secondly, everything to do with the economy and with people’s freedoms, the roadblocks that impede freedom of movement and have affected employment. The inability to move goods and products for export has caused enormous financial losses. Tourism has suffered nationally and locally, especially small businesses. Most businesses in Nicaragua are small or medium-sized and have been very badly affected. A lot of business have closed.” Economy Minister Ivan Acosta has stated: “Growth projections for the economy were 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent, but now we think the economy is not growing. 200,000 jobs have been lost, which affects social security, trade, domestic demand and real productive activity.”

Extensive losses

Nicaragua’s municipal authorities report losses to vehicles, machinery and equipment of over U.S.$10 million and to buildings and infrastructure of over U.S.$112 million. The country’s technical training institute reports losses of U.S.$80 million. The Ministry of Education reports over 60 schools attacked and damaged. A preliminary Ministry of Health report in June reported 55 ambulances destroyed or damaged, as well as other damage to hospitals and health centres, all resulting from opposition attacks. The Infrastructure and Transport Ministry also reports extensive losses, for example damage valued at U.S.$1.5 million from just one incident, when opposition activists attacked a plant in Sebaco and destroyed equipment.

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“We Want Peace – No More Violence!”

None of that extraordinary level of violence and destruction figures anywhere in the reports by Amnesty International or the IACHR, nor the abuse of the basic rights of the government workers and local population involved. Similarly, neither those organizations nor the Western media have reported the role of criminals contracted to operate the opposition roadblocks and carry out attacks. On June 30, Nicaraguan police arrested Salvadoran mara leader Oscar Rivas Carrillo [maras are drug trafficking gangs – TML Ed. Note], who confirmed he and other criminals were being paid to operate roadblocks, carry out murders, burn public buildings and attack economic targets. Rivas and other criminals worked jointly with opposition activists supported by right-wing business interests, U.S.-funded NGOs, right-wing political parties and the Catholic Church.

Clearly, Amnesty International and the IACHR have deliberately covered up that reality and misled international opinion, faithlessly exploiting their image as defenders of human rights, just as they do on Venezuela and Cuba. Even so, despite the extreme violence and the egregious dishonesty of its apologists, the U.S.-backed right-wing opposition coup to oust President Daniel Ortega has failed. People in Nicaragua overwhelmingly support efforts to return to normality and a political solution to the crisis. The Nicaraguan authorities will tolerate the IACHR’s theatrics for another few months before the OAS circus eventually moves on. Defeated opposition leaders hoped to impose their coup, failed because they lacked popular support, and now have to accept what the Sandinista government is prepared to agree as the sovereign power in Nicaragua. Miguel Ramos did not die in vain.

(Tortilla con Sal, July 4, 2018. Photos: J. Caijino, M. Blumenthal.)

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